/ 28 June 2024

Local shows to watch out for

Netflix Family 1 180 (1) (1)
Get out the popcorn: Shoki Mmola, Nefisa Mkhabela, Bohang Moeko, Marjorie Langa and John Morapama from Netflix’s How To Ruin Love: The Proposal, the South African family drama-rom com.

How to Ruin Love: The Proposal is a local romantic comedy about the chronicles of love, navigating family dynamics and tradition versus modernity. 

Expanding on the beloved How To Ruin Christmas universe, audiences are introduced to another set of messy and chaotic families. 

The four-part series — a recent addition on Netflix — revolves around Zoleka (Sivenathi Mabuya) who sabotages her relationship with Kagiso (Bohang Moeko) in the lead up to Valentine’s Day. 

Desperate to make things right, she enlists the help of her overprotective dad (Dumisani Mbebe); her paternal aunt, the over-the-top Dabs (Tina Jaxa) plus her future parents-in-law (Marjorie Langa and John Morapama). 

The first episode is a lesson on how assumptions and expectations can ruin one’s relationship and prospects of marriage. 

Zoleka’s trust issues and hyper-vigilance are representative of a wounded heart, due to infidelity issues from past relationships. Ruminating over past events until her judgments of them are seen as truth is the aftershock that affects her current relationship. 

Her impulsive nature makes her do things that turn her projections of worst-case scenarios into self-fulfilling prophecies. 

Although only hinted at in the series, abandonment anxiety seems to play a part in Zoleka’s character profile due to the loss of a parent at a young age. 

Kagiso is a hardworking entrepreneur who has spent most of his life trying to make his dreams come true, while supporting his large and colourful family. 

He also struggles with being of a different class to Zoleka and, deep down, feels that he isn’t good enough for her. He is a people-pleaser, struggling with setting boundaries. 

Due to our country’s fragmented socio-economic context, there is an unspoken expectation from parents for prosperous children to financially support the family. For many black professionals and entrepreneurs, like Kagiso, this can lead to pressure and self-sacrifice. 

Creating boundaries when it comes to this financial obligation is a simple act of self-love, argues Ndumi Hadebe in her book Handle Black Tax Like a Pro. 

They are an ultimate power couple on paper, yet some of these issues overshadow Zoleka and Kagiso’s happiness. 

Beyond WhatsApp groups, honest communication in confronting the pain-points within our relationships — romantic, friendship and family — towards healing is what the series essentially highlights. 

How to Ruin Love: The Proposal is also a sterling showcase of our heritage to the world, from the vibrant wardrobe replete with elegant Xhosa outfits to the soundtrack featuring Mpharanyana, Langa Mavuso and HHP. 

When given the opportunity to create a spin-off on Netflix, Rethabile Ramaphakela, creator and executive producer, said, “Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that How to Ruin would turn into a franchise on a global platform and we’re so grateful that we have the opportunity to tell African stories on Netflix. 

“Stories that are a celebration of us and who we are. We hope to bring even more joy and laughter with this spin-off.”


During its rebrand launch earlier this year, Showmax managers emphasised how the local platform aims to redefine streaming in Africa through producing more local content. They were not lying. 

In recent months, a copious number of original local films, reality shows and series have hit our screens. Series such as Youngins, Wyfie, Koek, Red Ink and Empini have kept local audiences bingeing religiously. 

One addition to the platform is the riveting youth drama series 016FM. Produced by Nolo Phiri and directed by Luthando Mngomezulu, 016FM is about pop culture, township communities and accountability. 

To save their much-loved community radio station in the Vaal area from closing, two polar opposite DJs compete in a radical on-air battle. 

They know it will be a fight to reclaim the hearts of listeners and advertisers but don’t realise they will also have to oust a dangerous, shadowy syndicate that has infiltrated the station. 

Flamboyant DJ Whiskey, played by Mpho Sebeng, in what is believed to be his final role before his untimely death in a car crash last month, is illustrative of Vaal’s effervescent youth culture. 

I had followed this precocious young actor’s journey since his role in 2016’s drama Ring of Lies. I appreciated his commitment and process in researching his roles and, like many local viewers, I was sad to hear about his death. 

In his final interview with Showmax, Sebeng indicated that preparation for the role entailed spending time with the locals, especially the people who started the culture of ama-Italiana and izikhothane. 

He said: “There is a big pop-cultural movement in the Vaal that is highly influenced by Italian high fashion. DJ Whiskey is an Italiana as well, so I immersed myself in understanding this movement in order to have a better understanding of the character.” 

Tuelo Gabonewe, creator of the series, spoke highly of Sebeng in an interview with the Mail & Guardian: “I met Mpho for the first time when he auditioned for the role of Whiskey. Everyone felt comfortable around him and wanted to audition with him. As an actor, he brought his A-game every single day.” 

Gabonewe, who is also a co-executive producer, alongside DJ Lemonka and Kgalalelo Maota, says this is their first drama series as a production company at 2Go2 Media. Armed with a skill set gained as the author of Setswana novels, he also contributed the script for one of the episodes. 

The leap of faith it took to leave the corporate world last year to work full time in the creative industry presented Gabonewe with some obstacles to overcome. 

“The biggest challenge was getting used to how things work in this space. I had to learn on the job — and fast. There is little to no room for error in this environment and time literally is money.” 

I asked Gabonewe about the importance of this generation of African creatives telling our stories, undiluted. 

“Authenticity has always been important. As creators, we have a responsibility to ensure that our output is as reflective of ourselves and our reality as possible,” he said. “If our people don’t see themselves in the things we create, then we’re doing something wrong.” 

016FM’s star-studded cast also includes Joseph Sedibo, Nthati Moshesh, Sophie Ndaba and Sello Motloung. It premiered on Showmax on 26 June, with new episodes on Wednesdays.

He is Not Ready

In the post-Covid era, the local cinema industry has been severely challenged by streaming platforms and dwindling attendance by movie lovers. Local cinema groups, such as Ster-Kinekor and Nu Metro, have made some effort  to bring local stories to the big screen. But is it not too little, too late to try to revive the local cinema industry? 

When local films are released, they are shown at limited venues for a limited time, denying most audiences big-screen entertainment. 

For instance #Lovemyselfie, The Bush Knife, Frankie en Felipé and Just Now Jeffrey were released at just a few theatres earlier this year. 

International award-winning local thriller Facedeep, directed by Vuyani Bila, was also scarcely shown and, when it was, it was usually late in the evening. 

I would not blame you if the above-mentioned titles were news to you. 

Cinema houses such as Ster-Kinekor have indicated that the challenging economic environment and load-shedding have contributed to low cinema attendance. According to an article on MyBroadband.co.za, Ster-Kinekor has announced plans to retrench 236 employees as part of its restructuring strategy to ensure business sustainability. 

The company further said it planned to close up to nine cinemas in South Africa’s most populated provinces. 

In Gauteng, for instance, it will close Cedar Square, Maponya, Matlosana, Southgate and Sterland in Pretoria. 

Most people do not have the money for a premium cinema experience and therefore seek alternatives, such as streaming platforms. Nonetheless, for those who enjoy local stories on the silver screen, rom-com He is Not Ready is the latest local film to hit cinemas. 

Thabo’s (Botho Molahloe) long-time girlfriend Zonke (Motsoaledi Setumo) gives him the ultimatum of either marrying her or letting her go. This sets Thabo on a journey of discovering whether he is ready — or not — to take the next step. 

To do this, he decides he must undergo a personal journey of soul-searching, preparation and testing to see if he is marriage material or should call it quits. Along the way, he encounters the advice and opinions of his friends and family but realises that, ultimately, he must make up his own mind. 

Independently produced by Beyond the Eyes Network, the film is directed by Tebogo Mogale and produced by Sammy Rabolele. The cast includes Donachcha Danster, Mpule Matlhola, Sello Sebotsane and Mpho “Popps” Modikoane.

 This hilarious local comedy flick is fit for a fun date night over popcorn, chocolate and cream soda (my favourite combo). 

He is Not Ready premiers on the big screens nationwide on 28 June. 

It will also show in Namibia, Botswana and Zambia in the coming weeks.